Pro Tips: January 2010

Pro Tips: January 2010

January finds us in the thick of winter fishing patterns. For those of you that visited the Rockport area over the past few months, I hope you have seen an increase in your trout catches. The numbers are still below winter averages, I feel, but they are much improved since heavy rainfall over the past few months has sweetened the bays and colder water temperatures have aided in concentrating the scattered fish of November and early December. During this time of year, I am often monitoring frequent frontal systems, observing water temperatures, and searching for bait over just about any type of structure. I'll travel from San Antonio Bay down to Baffin in search of the best quality of trout for my clients, while paying close attention to those three factors. You may have heard this more times than you care to, but locating bait this time of year is EVERYTHING. Usually, the bait will show up close to the given structure in whatever bay your fishing, and its location and activity will be solely based upon water temperatures. In sports, announcers do a walk-through prior to the game; I do the same before every trip I take, especially in the winter months. Let me take you on a walk-through.

To start, I monitor the weather forecasts for the upcoming week. Frontal passages are typically once-a-week affairs, so I have to find areas that provide some protection from both SE and NE winds. I'll also need some preferred structure for the particular bay system that I have chosen to fish for that day. In January, I'm most often looking for either scattered grass with softer bottom or scattered shell with a slight mix of the soft stuff and some grass. To me, soft bottom with some scattered grass and some harder submerged structure is hard to beat. Add to this a quick deep-water access for bitter cold periods, and you have a prime big trout winter area. Along with checking the frontal system forecasts, I'll look up the Gulf water temperature, but my on-board GPS water temperature gauge is what I truly go by. It measures the water surface temperature. I monitor the water temperature hourly in any given area. Daytime warming trends can heat shallower areas of the same structure just a few degrees, which often draws the bait up shallow for a short, midday warm up. By adjusting to these trends, you can keep yourself in the area where the bait resides, and that's where your trout will be as well. Winter-run trout never get too far from the chuck wagon.

Once on the water, I try to troll or drift into the area that I have chosen for the day. This gives me time to observe the area and get my approach plan in place. If you'll really look at WHERE and HOW the bait is reacting, it will give you the line that the majority of the bait is holding to. In the winter, baitfish often react to larger trout whether or not the trout are actively feeding. Reading the area that you have chosen is the single most important task at this point in the day. If you get the signals confused, you can blow your opportunities before they have had time to fully develop. One piece of advice that I positively know will help you become a better trophy trout angler is to allow the pattern to develop. Thoroughly observe every aspect of what's happening before you make big moves in your area.

When I believe I have located the right fish, I'll set up camp and try to hit literally every piece of structure and every edge or drop-off in that area. I stay as far away from the comfort zone as possible. I am a big believer in a mature trout's ability to sense our presence. Tip her off that you're there, and you've decreased your chances dramatically. By reducing movement, you reduce water noise and vibration, thus increasing your odds of a catch. Although, talking must not spook them because I catch them and my mouth's open all the time! Another tip to increase your chance of catching a big one is to TRY to keep the fish below the surface as much as you CAN once hooked. Not only does this give you a better chance of landing a really big fish, but it also reduces the disturbance in the comfort zone. Big fish can spook other big fish in the area if given too much rein, and actually, fighting your fish with more drag than normal will land you bigger fish. To pull this all together, you need only the right rod and proper leader materials.

Finally, one aspect that I think is a given to all successful big fish anglers is ATTITUDE; you got to know the fish are there even when you don't stick one. Got to see in your mind what's not visible to the eye, and absolutely got to know that when she bites, she's done. The Watkins boys have it. Do you?

May your fishing
Always be catching,

Guide Jay Watkins